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National Botanical Research Institute


The National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) - is amongst one of the constituent national research laboratories and institutes of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), New Delhi. Originally set up as the National Botanic Gardens (NBG) by the State Government of Uttar Pradesh (U.P.), it was taken over by the CSIR in 1953. Though, initially engaged in research work in the classical botanical disciplines, the NBG went on laying an increasing emphasis, in keeping with the national needs and priorities in the field of plant sciences, on its applied and developmental research activities. A time came when it was felt that the name NBG no longer projected the correct nature and extent of its aims and objectives, functions and R & D activities. Consequently, the NBG was renamed as the NBRI, i.e., The National Botanical Research Institute in 1978. This name has since correctly reflected the distinctive character and the R & D activities of this only applied botanical institution of its type in the country. However, the origin and development of the NBRI to its present-day status and size, with a 25-hectare botanical garden, two laboratories complexes, a rich herbarium, a voluminous library, an 85-hectare experimental-­cum-extension Banthra Research Station and an extensive Betelvine Cultivation project at Mahoba make a fascinating story, set off against a colourful historical back ground, spanning three distinct eras

  1. The Nawabi Era,

  2. British/State Government Era and

  3. CSIR Era.

The Nawabi Era

 

The garden part of the NBRI encompasses within its limits the historical 'Sikandar Bagh', which was laid out around 1800 A.D., as a royal garden, by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan and was later improved upon by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last king of Avadh, during the first half of the 19th century. It was, in fact, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah who named the garden as "Sikandar Bagh", after one of his favourite queens, Sikander Mahal Begum. Measuring about 150 square metre and having a small pavilion in the middle, the garden must have been the venue of innumerable performances of the famous 'Ras-lilas', 'Kathak' dance, music and poetic 'mehfils' and other cultural activities for which the last Nawab was very well known!

 

The Sikander Bagh was, later, also the venue for a fierce battle during the uprising of 1857, when about 2000 freedom fighters, who had barricaded themselves in the garden, were killed in a vicious British attack. Articles like cannon balls, swords and shields, pieces of muskets and rifles, etc., accidentally dug out of the garden over the years and now displayed in the NBRI Exposition and scars of cannon balls on the old walls of the garden, still remind one of that historic event. A still greater and more visible reminder of that battle is the statue, erected some years ago in the old campus of the garden, of Uda Devi, a brave passi lady, who fought side by side with the besieged soldiers. Attired in a male battle dress, she had perched herself atop a tree in the garden, with some ammunition and a gun in hand, and kept the British attackers at bay till her ammunition was exhausted and she dropped dead on the ground, her body riddled with bullets.

 

The British/State Government Era

 

After the establishment of the British rule in 1858, some additional land around the Sikander Bagh was also attached to it, a road cut through it and it was officially renamed as the Government Horticultural Garden. Several well­ known British horticulturists, namely, Dr. J. Cameron, Dr. E. Bonavia, who wrote one of the early authoritative monographs on Citrus spp. and Mr. M. Ridley, successively occupied the position of the Superintendent of this Garden, which gradually became a centre of horticultural activities, such as, the establishment of the Oudh Agri­Horticultural society, organization of flower shows, supply and exchange of plants, setting up of flower nurseries, etc., in North India. Several fruit orchards, a flower nursery and lawns were added to the Garden, which was also maintained as a public park.

 

In 1946, a proposal was submitted to the Government of U.P., for the reorganization of this Garden to a botanical garden in order to serve as a centre for botanical and horticultural research. The proposal was accepted in 1948 and some funds and small staff were sanctioned for the reorganization. The Garden was rechristened as the National Botanic Gardens and Prof. K.N. Kaul, the then Professor of Botany, Government Agricultural College, Kanpur, was appointed Honorary Director. Five years later, on April 13, 1953, the NBG was taken over by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi and the real re-organizational work could commence only then.

 

The CSIR Era

 

From the very time it was taken over by the CSIR, the NBG was envisaged to be a combination of a botanic garden and an applied botanical research laboratory. However, the course of events over the years has totally changed the very complexion of the organization. It was renamed as the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) in October 1978. The R & D effort of the NBRI is now geared to the exploration, introduction, conservation, propagation, protection, genetic upgrading and utilization of native and exotic plant wealth of India, with particular reference to non-­traditional economic plants and ornamentals, leading to identification and development of production technologies for new plant resources of commercial value.

 

Aims & Objectives

  1. Basic and Applied Botanical, Horticultural and related Phyto-chemical Researches on Plants and Plant Products;

  2. Development of Production Technologies for New Plant Sources of commercial importance;

  3. Building up Germ Plasm Collections of Economic Plants;

  4. Providing Expertise and Assistance for Identification, Supply and Exchange of Plants and Propagules, Garden Layout and Landscaping;

  5. Collection and Dissemination of Scientific and Technical Information on Economic Plants as well as on the R & D Activities of the Institute, through publication of scientific and popular literature.

Areas Of R & D and Infrastructure

 

All the aims and objectives of the Institute are pursued through various projects distributed among the following seven broad areas of R & D and their respective activities:

  1. Plant Biodiversity and Conservation Biology

  2. Botanic Garden and Floriculture

  3. Biotechnology and Plant Physiology

  4. Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering

  5. Biomass Biology and Environmental Sciences

  6. Genetics, Plant Breeding and Agro-technology

  7. Natural Products Development

Experimental Research Stations/Centres

 

NBRI has four Experimental Research Stations - the Banthra Research Station, the Biomass Research Centre, the Aurawan Research Centre and the Betelvine Research Centre, Mahoba. While the first three are situated at and near village Banthra, about 22 km away from Lucknow, on Lucknow Kanpur Road, the fourth one is working at Mahoba town, district Mahoba, about 220 km away from Lucknow. All the four centres mostly serve as extension centres for the demonstration of agro-­technologies developed by the institute as well as for raising large-scale, but, experimental cultivations of different types of economic plants.

 

Specialized Services And Facilities

  1. Economic Botany Information Service (EBIS): Set up in 1978 as a National Facility, the EBIS caters to the information needs of the scientist, the industrialist, the planner and the administrator in certain selected areas of economic botany. It runs four regular services, viz., Selective Dissemination of Information through "Applied Botany abstracts", a quarterly abstracting journal, Technical Enquiry Service, Bibliography Service and Reprography Service. EBIS is also the main publishing agency of the Institute for bringing out publications on the Technologies, Processes and Products developed by the latter as well as bulletins, monographs, books, directories, bibliographies, proceedings of seminars and symposia, brochures, folders, etc.

  2. Bioinformatics: It is a DST-sponsored Centre for setting up a bioinformation network of data bases on plant diversity, legumes and South Asia Plant Systematics Index. It also maintains the NBRI Website.

  3. Herbarium: One of the richest botanical herbaria of the country, it possesses over 115000 plant specimens, properly identified, classified and incorporated. Though it follows the Bentham and Hooker's System of plant classification, its holdings are also classified according to various States of the Indian Union. The herbarium regularly carries out supply and exchange of plants with the major herbaria of the world and undertakes identification of plants at request, besides being open for consultation and matching of plants.

  4. Library: The Institute's library is among the finest botanical libraries of the country. It possesses over 55000 volumes, subscribes to about 350 Indian and foreign periodicals, including the Biology Abstracts and the Current Contents on diskettes. It is equipped with an Internet facility and the usual microfilm and micro fische readers.

  5. Electron Microscopy: This facility comprises Scanning and Transmission electron microscopes, an ultramicrotome, a 'Polaron' E 6000 Modular Vacuum Coater and 'Edwards' E 306-A Shadow Casting units.

  6. Eco-Education Centre and Out-Reach Programme: An Eco-education Centre, with an exhaustive out­ reach programme as an integral constituent of its organization and functioning, has been recently set up at the Institute. The Centre comprises four major components:

  • A Special Garden for the physically handicapped, including the visually impaired, laid out around the theme 'touch, feel and smell'. Every plant in this garden has alongside it a small descriptive plate, bearing all the necessary information about it engraved in Braille script. A special effort has been made to grow aromatic and thorn-less varieties of plants in this garden.

  • Children Laboratory

  • Model Home Garden

  • Out Reach Programme, under which popular educational lectures and demonstrations are organized on the subjects of environmental pollution and protection, plant conservation, nutrition, public health and hygiene, etc. for the visiting teams of women and children as well as for the rural population in the nearby hutments and villages.

This write-up is courtesy Mr. B. R. Juneja, Ex Scientist, NBRI, Lucknow.


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